Eight eighth grade robotics students, better known as Control+Alt+Delete, made history in the spring after being chosen as the first robotics team ever to represent the state of Georgia in the First Lego League (FLL) International Open Championship this summer in the United Kingdom. They are students at Fulton Science Academy Private School (FSAPS).
This honor comes on the heels of an impressive season where the girls amassed awards and trophies at regional, super regional, and state FLL tournaments. The fact that the team is all female is especially noteworthy given the ongoing gender gap in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) fields. The media is taking notice, and so are experts in the field. In fact, so many are rooting for these young ladies that a branded fashion line is in the works.
According to a 2016 report by the National Science Foundation, less than one-quarter of current STEAM careers are filled by women; even more alarming, minority women comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers.
This gender gap serves as additional motivation for the girls, who continue to compete and win against a largely male-dominated field of competitors.
FSAPS aims to dismantle unnecessary gender gaps by encouraging female students to embrace subjects like robotics. FSAPS Principal Kenan Sener says, “Whether we can see them or not, robots are already a very important part of everyday life. Just this month, Disney announced the development of robots, including “humanoid robots” that have been adapted for soft contact and/or interaction with a human. The military uses highly developed robots to test hazmat suits. And companies like Tesla, Google, and Facebook are investing huge amounts of capital into robotics, AI research, and development. Robots are definitely here to stay, which is why early exposure to programs such as the First Lego League is so important for our students.”
Team Control+Alt+Delete is one of more than 32,000 FLL teams to compete in robotics competitions annually. The program tasks students in more than 80 countries to think like scientists and engineers. Winning teams ascend to tournaments of increasing levels of competitiveness, with the World Championships being one of the most desirable destinations.
FSAPS Robotics Coach Yasin Kaya remembers the day he was notified that his team was chosen to advance to the UK. “When Georgia’s First Lego League Operational Partner Jeff Rosen shared the news, I was elated. I remember asking Mr. Rosen if Control+Alt+Delete was the state’s first all-female team to compete globally at this scale. He explained that not only were they the first all-female team but also that they were the first team EVER to be chosen, I was speechless. This honor is not lost on these talented young ladies or myself. They continue to work countless hours to prepare for England; they are very much in it to win it!”
FLL’s theme for this year was “Animal Allies.” Competing teams chose and proposed a solution to a real-world problem using an animal. Detailed research, presentation materials, prototype creation are all necessary ingredients.
Students were also required to build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology. The robot was programmed to solve a set of missions during the competition’s timed Robot Challenge. Missions varied in difficulty depending upon the operating team.
Control+Alt+Delete decided to tackle this year’s FLL challenge by researching a more natural way to eliminate mosquitos without using pesticides. Pesticides have been linked to adverse health effects including brain tumors (PubMed.gov), so the young ladies wanted to identify an alternative to harmful chemicals. Through their research, team members learned that bats are a natural remedy and that they can eat up to five thousand mosquitoes each night. Also, the girls learned that bats are somewhat easy to attract, so they pursued this concept in more detail.
In conjunction with FLL’s requirements, Team Control+Alt+Delete constructed a bat house using a 3D printer, engineering, and programming. The bat house included a vent can that will open or close based upon the temperature because bats are affected by temperature.
Along with the bat house, members of Control+Alt+Delete also created a smaller, separate mosquito trap using carbon dioxide and LED lights. The combination of these materials will attract mosquitos towards a fan that sucks them into the enclosure. The entire project was detailed in an impressive engineering notebook, and team members used this log, as well as their designs, when presenting their work to numerous judging panels.